Director: Ekwa Msangi | 1h 35mins | Drama
Walter’s (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) life in Brooklyn changes dramatically when his Wife, Esther (Zainab Jah), and his Daughter, Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) join him after 17 years of being a part. All three of them try to adjust to their new setting, as well as dealing with the disconnect between each of them.
Msangi’s family Drama Farewell Amor is a soft and stunning look at family life, and adjusting to the drastic change a lot of immigrants face when searching for a new life in a foreign land. The difference is that, Msangi’s use of the non-linear style achieves greater connection to it’s characters. It’s less about a national identity in a foreign place, but rather a beautiful dissection of three individuals all fighting something specific.
The majority of the film is split between Walter, Esther and Sylvia. This feels incredibly important, after all, these are three people who are unable to connect. We can’t see Sylvia for who she is through the eyes of her Father who she doesn’t even know, we can’t see Walter as the flawed man he is through the eyes of his faithful Wife and we especially can’t see Esther as a fragile woman who is in a constant battle between her optimism and her alienation. The half an hour we spend with the each character is essential for building each person, and in turn giving them an endearing link to each other.
The first half an hour sticks with Walter, a man very much a part of Brooklyn’s lifestyle after 17 years. We quickly learn that he’s been unfaithful to his wife, finding solace in the arms of a new woman, as well as finding himself through dance, something he adored in his time in war-torn Angola. He’s incredibly flawed, but he wants the new life to work, working tirelessly to provide and to connect with his new family. Walter has so much inner-conflict as a Father, husband and provider, and it’s delicately woven into place with the other two characters.
There is a beautiful scene in which Walter and Esther sit down for dinner and reminisce about their youth. A bittersweet moment that brings them together with the cynical outlook of only being able to bond over previous memories.
The second is Sylvia, a teenager that, during the opening scenes, barely speaks a word. But when we see her during her school day and messaging her friends we see the excited youthfulness that was once there. We eventually learn about her love of dance, an arc that beautifully links her to Walter, as well as giving her the opportunity to find herself in a new place, without it consuming her. Her arc is one of identity, avoiding the temptation of being labelled and becoming a woman that only she can be.
The third, and definitely most emotionally straining, is that of Esther. The only thing we really know is that she is a devoted to her religion. Praying before every meal and latching herself to the nearest church she can find. But her struggle is far less apparent. A Mother who must be strong and optimistic in the presence of her daughter trying to not too “lose my daughter to this country” but feels her own insecurities as a Wife to an unfaithful man she barely knows. There is a beautiful scene in which Walter and Esther sit down for dinner and reminisce about their youth. A bittersweet moment that brings them together with the cynical outlook of only being able to bond over previous memories.
It’s ending is one of maturity and delicate happiness. These problems can’t be solved in the flick of a narrative switch but worked on over time. It’s encompassing of the subtle beauty each scene in the film has, using effective little moments for it’s characters to connect, as well as air their concerns. Msangi is of course using the immigration story to add extra layers to the film, but the non-linear storytelling doesn’t let national identity become the one defining quality they have, making for characters that are unbelievably complex.